Lenny Ibizarre

Ambient Collection, Vol. 3

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Throughout the 1990s, the New York-based Instinct label released a dizzying amount of electronica, much of it ambient in nature. Perhaps more than anything else except their lock on Moby's early recordings, Instinct became known for their ambient recordings as they released one ambient compilation after another -- even if none of these compilations particularly proved to be landmarks in the long run. Yet when Instinct eventually sorted through their cluttered back catalog of ambient releases and assembled the Ambient Boxed best-of compilation in 2001, it became clear that they indeed had released some amazing ambient music in the '90s. Sure, there aren't many big names -- notable exceptions being Moby, Sutekh, Terre Thaemiltz, and Taylor Deupree. In fact, many of the featured artists will be no names to contemporary listeners; ambient was never a particularly accommodating genre for commercially minded artists. Still, comprised of superstars or no names, the music is what matters most, and Instinct assembled some quality ambient music for the boxed set. Most of the music came about in the '90s before the glitch/laptop movement. As a result, nearly everything is very synth-based, and in most cases characterized by an analog feel. This will be fine for most listeners, particularly those with a taste for melodic synth washes, but there will also be some who will find this music a little too dated, particularly those accustomed to the anything-goes approach employed by post-2000 laptop producers. Either way, though, there's no denying the collection's historical significance: It no doubt defines an important era in the quick development of electronica, the mid- to late-'90s era when electronica suddenly became "the next big thing" -- an exciting yet brief era before everything splintered at the end of the decade with the advent of the laptop culture. (The four-disc Ambient Boxed is also available in four separate one-disc volumes, none being particularly better than the others.)

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